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Parisienne icon; fashion house; luxury goods company; and one of the world-renowned labels that’s spurred countless Chinatown spinoffs—now, it’s director Frédéric Tcheng’s latest in a line-up of documentary homages to beloved fashion figures. Tcheng’s previous work on Valentino and Vreeland has been well regarded, and Dior and I is no exception to the rule, with his affinity for the world of fashion shining through. The film is an eloquent, humble take on the world of the revolutionary fashion house, and will likely appeal to fashion lovers, fashionistas, and the fashionably challenged who just like pretty things.
Perhaps the basis of the film’s wide appeal is due to the fact it’s less about the garments than one might expect; if you’re looking for a rerun of Dior’s 2012 line, you won’t find it here. What you will find is a thoughtful, honest introduction to some of the people in the biz, including newbie house director Raf Simons, and an insightful commentary on what’s behind a name.
The freshness of Tcheng’s filmmaking comes largely from his approach to structure. In some senses, it’s a very basic narrative: it’s a behind-the-scenes chronicle that aligns us with newcomer Simons, demands our allegiance to him, and produces a sense of revelry in his success. The portrait of Raf is beautifully balanced, though, with sketches of his incorrigible team, and it’s this attention to the plebs that lifts the tone of the whole film. Amongst this arc, Tcheng displays his ability to add historical interjections without weighing down the narrative, lightly touching upon elements of Christian Dior’s life and work to create a kind of mythology of the house of Dior. It’s an interesting approach, given Simons’ own assertion that “the past is not romantic to me”. Nevertheless, Tcheng infuses the life of the past into the film in a manner that leaves the tired biopic approach of the contemporaneous Yves Saint Laurent in the dust.
The precise work of creating haute couture garments is echoed in Tcheng’s careful takes, and the film seems self-aware in its ability to gauge just how much of the angst of preparing the collection the audience wants to see before the focus shifts to a lighter anecdote or character sketch. Editing and cinematography echo the House’s style: it’s generally clean cut and simply “pretty”, with just the right number of breathtaking moments. This isn’t the most hard-hitting documentary I’ve seen. It’s not the most meaningful, or even the most stylish. But the “wow” moments alone make it worth the runtime: you should probably see it if you like pretty things.